Macintosh PowerBook 520

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Macintosh PowerBook 520
CPU: 25 MHz 68LC040
RAM: 100ns Pseudostatic RAM, 4 MB standard (0 onboard plus 1 slots), 36 MB max
Hard drive: 160-320 MB
Form factor: laptop
OS: (7.1.1-8.1)
Available: May 16, 1994-September 16, 1995
MSRP: US$2270

Launched alongside the other three machines in the all new PowerBook 5XX series, the PowerBook 520 was available in either mono or colour versions (PowerBook 520c) and represented the new standard in 'economy' when it came to using your Mac on the move.


Having put the ill fated Macintosh Portable well behind them, Apple had released not one but two successful series of portable machines (the PowerBook 1XXs and the PowerBook Duos). Both had been heavily (although not exclusively) dependent on the Motorola 68030 but time hadn't stood still and the newer 68040 processor was available and was already installed on many of the desktop Macs. It would have been easy to simply upgrade the existing product lines but Apple took the opportunity to release a whole new range of machines: The PowerBook 5XX series.

Having weighed up the pros and cons of both the PowerBook 1XXs and the Duos, Apple realised that while users craved portability, they also valued connectivity (a failing of the Duo machines). The new PowerBook 5XX series not only addressed these issues but also introduced a swathe of new features not seen on any laptop (Mac, PC or otherwise).

Offering unrivalled power via the Motorola 68LC040 (a low power version of the 68040 that omitted a dedicated floating point unit (FPU)), the 5XX machines were not only fast but were very battery friendly. Power was a major concern to users and Apple designed the 5XX machines in such a way that the a second battery could be fitted into the bespoke expansion bay (this bay would also allow users to add a PCMCIA adaptor if they felt the need). Elsewhere the machine boasted built in ethernet, a trackerpad instead of the usual trackerball, stereo sound (with stereo speakers built into the case lid), a memory ceiling of 36Mb (as opposed to the 14Mb in place on the PowerBook 1XX machines of the time) and the option to upgrade to the next generation of PowerPC processor (when they became available).

The entire range featured four machines and all were released at the same time with the 520 and 520c being aimed at the more budget conscious buyer and the 540 and 540c being designed for the more demanding user. The differences between the four machines were minimal: two different speeds options (25MHz or 33MHz), two different display options (colour or mono)(passive on the 520s, active on the 540s). (Note: The PowerBook 5XX series did eventually consist of five machines with the PowerBook 550c only being released to the Japanese market one year later).

The 520, while being the bargain basement machine, might not have looked pretty with its passive matrix mono screen, but it was still great to use offering power (even at 25MHz the 68LC040 screamed compared to the older 68030), connectivity, great battery life and just about everything that users could ask for. Those users willing to pay the extra $630 though got not only the same package but had the added bonus of colour in the shape of the 520c.

Full Specifications

  • CPU: 25MHz Motorola 68LC040
  • FPU: None
  • ROM: 2Mb
  • RAM: 4Mb - 36Mb
  • Display: 9.5" 4-bit 640x480 passive matrix (520) / 9.5" 8-bit 640x480 colour dual-scan passive matrix (520c)
  • Resolution: 640x480 (4 bit) (520) / 640x480 (8 bit) (520c)
  • Audio: 16-bit 22KHz stereo
  • Floppy: 1x1.44Mb
  • Hard drive: 160Mb or 240Mb (or 320Mb - 520c)
  • Drive bay(s): 1x2.5" third-height
  • Size (HxWxD): 2.3" x 11.5" x 9.7"
  • Weight: 7.1 lb (both batteries), 6.3 lb (one battery)
  • Gestalt ID: 72
  • Addressing: 32 bit
  • Battery: One (or two) Nickel-Metal-Hydride
  • Expansion slots: Proprietary modem
  • Ports: 2xSerial, SCSI(HDI-30), 1xAAUI, 1xADB, 1xVideo, Audio(Out), Audio(in)
  • Introduced: 16/05/1994
  • Retired: 10/06/1995 (520) / 16/09/1995 (520c)
  • Cost: $2270 (520) / $2900 (520c)
  • System: Mac OS 7.1.1 - 8.1
  • Code name(s): Blackbird
  • Upgrade path: None